Opening a path to open RAN

Systems integrators play a key role in the new open ecosystem.

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Jennifer P. Clark, Principal Analyst — Cloud Infrastructure and Edge Computing

Heavy Reading

27 May 2022

Opening a path to open RAN

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Heavy Reading's 1Q22 survey of global carrier trends shows that 82% of carriers consider open RAN to be critical or important to their network strategy over the next three years.

45% of those surveyed expect that between 10% and 25% of their cell sites will use an open RAN architecture by the end of next year; 29% expect that an even greater percentage of cell sites will be open RAN by that time. This is likely to be only the tip of the open RAN iceberg.

Omdia's "LTE and 5G Private Networks Tracker" showed a total of 27 announcements pertaining to private mobile networks as of the end of 2017. By the end of 1Q22, that cumulative number had grown to 1,172 announcements. While open RAN is a priority for the majority of global carriers, it is likely to be mandatory in enterprise private mobile networks. Enterprises implementing greenfield private mobile networks are also much more likely to look outside of the traditional RAN vendors to relative newcomers focused on virtualized open RAN solutions, such as Airspan Networks, Altiostar, Mavenir, JMA and Parallel Wireless.

The move to open RAN compounds both the benefits and challenges of a move to 5G. Highlights on the "challenges" side of the ledger include carriers being tasked to:

  • Manage the expansion and proliferation of moving parts:

    • Increase in cell sites, traffic and devices
    • isaggregation of the RAN to RU, CU, DU and RIC
  • Decrease capex and opex
  • Increase network coverage, particularly to underserved areas

On the "benefits" side, this new, open and disaggregated network enables:

  • Agile service creation
  • Speedy service deployment
  • A new, open ecosystem
  • Avoidance of vendor lock-in
  • A multivendor, best-of-breed RAN solution

The backdrop to both the benefits and challenges of 5G and open RAN is a carrier environment that is:

  1. Suffering from a skills shortage. This is consistently one of the top challenges carriers cite in moving to the next generation of mobile networking, be it 5G, open RAN, cloud native computing, edge computing or new development environments such as Kubernetes-based orchestration, CI/CD and DevOps.
  2. Trying to automate. Carriers know that a network that leverages automation throughout the network lifecycle of design, deploy and manage is key to addressing network challenges and reaping the anticipated benefits of 5G and open RAN.

Carriers and (even more so) enterprises need help in shouldering the work involved in a move to open RAN. It does not make sense for the majority of carriers to retain the skills needed internally. The migration path is not even clear enough for them to discern the path or the skills needed on that path. Managing the lifecycle of a new, open ecosystem of a multivendor, disaggregated mobile access network demands a systems integrator with a focus on open RAN, such as Amdocs, everis/NTT DATA, NEC or Tech Mahindra.

Carriers should be looking for partners that can negate the impact of their skills shortage and assist them in deploying an open RAN solution that leverages a multivendor, best-of-breed solution. The benefits of a partner also extend to the ability to lab test, then field test before the solution is deployed. Such a solution will assist carriers and enterprises in the overall automation of the network lifecycle, leveraging analytics and machine learning in the RAN solution, and opening a path to open RAN.

Blog sponsored by Amdocs.

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